Black Fri­day is a no-go for some shop­pers

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - AMERICA’S MARKETS - Zlati Meyer

For the first time in at least a decade, Jea­nine Men­dez did no shop­ping on Black Fri­day. The 31-year-old Brook­lynite didn’t head to any stores or check her lap­top and phone for on­line deals. In­stead, she planned to head to a lo­cal park and go to Man­hat­tan with her par­ents vis­it­ing from Florida.

“Stores are in­sane. It’s stress­ful,” the start-up con­sul­tant said. “Peo­ple are ev­ery­where. I just want to spend time with my fam­ily and be off on Black Fri­day.”

While some peo­ple think shop­ping on Thanks­giv­ing is sac­ri­lege, hunt­ing for bar­gains on Black Fri­day doesn’t have that stigma. An es­ti­mated 116 mil­lion Amer­i­cans will shop on Black Fri­day, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Re­tail Fed­er­a­tion’s fore­cast. Not these peo­ple. Call them Black Fri­day ditch­ers – in­di­vid­u­als who refuse to con­tend with 2 a.m. wake-ups calls, crowds, bodys­lam­ming and such con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion mere hours af­ter go­ing around the dinner ta­ble say­ing ev­ery­thing they’re thank­ful for. (Hint: It’s usu­ally health and fam­ily, not cash­mere sweaters and flat-screen TVs.)

Buoyed by #Op­tOut and #BuyNoth­ingDay hash­tags, they point to over­con­sump­tion, per­sonal fi­nan­cial trou­bles or sim­ply a de­sire to spend a day off do­ing some­thing else. Black Fri­day holds no in­ter­est – credit card or oth­er­wise – any­more.

“Most years, I was dis­ap­pointed that I couldn’t get some­thing be­cause you have to be there su­per early, but I was never an I-have-to-sleep-in-a-tent-to­get-a-TV type of per­son,” Men­dez said.

She used to walk around malls start­ing at mid­night with her older brother, fu­eled by cof­fee and the thrill of the hunt, and then come home ex­hausted by 7 a.m. to go to sleep. Her new phi­los­o­phy – de­spite pre­vi­ously scor­ing an Ap­ple Watch for al­most 50 per­cent off and 30 pieces of cloth­ing from the Gap for $150 – stemmed from a need for “com­pletely dis­con­nect­ing,” be­com­ing self­em­ployed and a de­sire to shift from giv­ing things to giv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, such as the South Amer­i­can va­ca­tion her par­ents are get­ting and movie passes and restau­rant gift cer­tifi­cates for the other dozen-plus peo­ple on her list.

“I have so much stuff in my house and on my per­son,” Men­dez said. “We’re con­stantly sur­rounded by stuff.”

That plethora – both in one’s home and on gift-giv­ing lists – is what gave Black Fri­day the run­way to be­come a re­tail phe­nom­e­non and an of­fi­cial cap­i­tal­let­tered hol­i­day. When the econ­omy tanked in 2008, the need for bar­gains reached a fever pitch, but more re­cently, Black Fri­day and its co-con­spir­a­tors Thanks­giv­ing Day Sales, Small Busi­ness Satur­day and Cy­ber Mon­day have mor­phed into Black Novem­ber. Now, there’s a back­lash. “It’s cy­cled out of vogue, and we’ve moved from in­ter­views on the lo­cal news look­ing at the great deals they got to three peo­ple were hurt in two fights and four peo­ple were ar­rested,” said Karthik Easwar, a con­sumer ex­pert at Ge­orge­town Univer­sity’s McDonough School of Busi­ness. “Black Fri­day will evolve.”

Psy­chol­o­gists call this re­ac­tance – when peo­ple are pres­sured in one di­rec­tion, they can do a 180. Over­whelmed by Black Fri­day ads and me­dia cov­er­age, shop­pers may do the same thing as when con­fronted by a pushy car sales­man and sim­ply walk away.

“Peo­ple are re­al­iz­ing you can ab­stain or stay away. It is a way to say, ‘I don’t agree with any of this,’ “Easwar said. “We see sales all the time. That’s fun­da­men­tally changed the way we look at Black Fri­day. ‘Why drive to the store and wait in line when I can wait it out and get it Dec. 1?’ ”

While the mo­ti­va­tion to head over to a mall is dy­ing, the de­sire to find good deals won’t change any­time soon, he added. Part of what’s aiding that is the im­me­di­acy of on­line shop­ping – no ag­gres­sive fel­low shop­pers, plus no need for pants.

The former is what made Scott Porter say good-bye to Black Fri­day this year. The 23-year-old golf pro from New­nan, Ge­or­gia, grew up in a city of 900 peo­ple with no stop light, so deal­ing with a bar­gain-hunt­ing mass of hu­man­ity isn’t his thing. He forced him­self to go in past years with his cousins. “I was tired of fight­ing the crowds,” he said. “It’s so many peo­ple. It gets too chaotic for me.”

In­stead, Porter said he plans to make all his gift pur­chases on­line us­ing a spe­cial bank ac­count he has saved $1,200 in. He ac­knowl­edged he won’t miss the shop­ping or the adren­a­line rush but the ex­pe­ri­ence it­self, and he fears not get­ting best bar­gains on­line.

“I’d rather try my luck on Cy­ber Mon­day,” he said. “It’s funny how some peo­ple re­act to get­ting good deals and how they’re will­ing to act.”

For Tammy McCleary of Lin­coln, North Dakota, it was a mat­ter of ag­ing out of Black Fri­day. Af­ter close to 20 years of rush­ing out af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, the pres­sure to get the hottest toys and video games quickly is gone.

“I’m get­ting older, and I don’t have young chil­dren to buy for any­more, (and) I don’t need a lot,” the 49-year-old as­sis­tant at the Univer­sity of Mary said. “I don’t have pa­tience to shop with other peo­ple.”

NATI HARNIK/AP

A Black Fri­day shop­per waits to check out at the Ne­braska Fur­ni­ture Mart store in Omaha on Fri­day.

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